How Companies Are Missing It On LinkedIn

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John M. O’Connor Forbes Councils Member Forbes Coaches Council COUNCIL POST | Paid Program


John M. O’Connor is a multi-year career coach, outplacement and career services leader based in North Carolina.


Until further notice, in my opinion, LinkedIn remains the top place for top talent to interact with the business marketplace. It doesn’t mean LinkedIn should be viewed as a nirvana environment that does not possess faults that need to be addressed. For instance, LinkedIn dangles perilously close to the precipice of becoming as professionally irrelevant as Facebook if it continues to encourage triviality and the acceptance of too many personal shares.

However, I still like the level of etiquette that remains on this professional forum. The conduct focuses mostly on a higher level of courtesy and professional exchange, even amid the people posting Facebook-like silliness and overly aggressive sales platforms. If or when LinkedIn grows closer to a pure sales platform and loses its professional nature, it will be time to get worried. Right now, I believe it is still the best single platform to build your personal and professional brand.

I work with many people on how they portray themselves online, including on LinkedIn, and as I see it, the main problem for companies — and this is why they are missing it on LinkedIn — is that they do not harness the power of their people on this platform. Here is how companies are screwing it up and thoughts on what they need to do to differently.

There’s Little Coherence And Teamwork

Instead of encouraging and helping employees on LinkedIn participate in group discussions and giving them an incentive to consistently share the good news and positive public relations of the company, most organizations leave this totally to chance. There is little coordination or gentle encouragement to work together to promote the brand. To their organizational credit, they may recognize that their employees should enjoy the freedom of expression on the platform, but they are missing the boat when it comes to encouraging platform collaboration. For example, instead of asking a few employees to share, reshare or comment on an event or photo, they could be doing so much more. One executive told me why his company didn’t want too much employee participation on LinkedIn: “Our company views it as a necessary evil and even a threat because some of our folks have been hired away, especially the ones who seem to have a higher profile on the platform.”

Pro Tip: It is not just tactics; it is mindset. Change yours. People should and will express their freedom on LinkedIn, but as a company, you should care more about conducting a better orchestration of your brand. Accept the fact that your top talent will be recruited on the platform. Instead of viewing it as a threat, help your top talent build powerful profiles and encourage them to share professional information and personal and corporate achievements. Let them participate in discussions and encourage them to write articles that add to their personal and professional brand. Give people an incentive to share the good news of the company and look unified.

You’re Letting The Competition Beat You

An executive coaching client from one of the world’s largest consulting firms called me recently and said this: “Hey John, I need to pump up my LinkedIn. Our company finally realized that clients are looking at our individual profiles, and they’ve given us some money to get someone to tweak it.” Alternatively, a small company VP recently said this to me about their renewed and more collaborative view of LinkedIn: “We don’t treat it like happenstance. We give all of our employees some freedom, but our top talent is publishing, sharing, liking and participating in groups and forums in a coordinated way every week.” The latter view of the platform will win the day. What did that company do? They helped every employee build a powerful profile and encouraged a full public relations approach to the platform rather than the big company’s Band-Aid, soft solution.

Pro Tip: Do not think, “Yeah, throw some money at the thing or at people and tell them to amp up their LinkedIn reactively.” Proactively help your top talent and even other employees create a strong, baseline profile and give them time every week to create, participate and connect. Make sure most of your people look relevant, relatable, active and engaged with their industry peers. LinkedIn does not have to become a waste of time that sucks productivity from your people. Let them work it. Suggest to them company-promoting positives and then get out of their way a bit, but provide guidance based on your social media policy about your dos and don’ts. In other words, coordinate the response and make it powerfully engaging.

You Don’t View It As A Content Marketing Powerhouse

One of the smartest moves LinkedIn added over the last few years to encourage change was not allowing more video but making a subtle but powerful change to its content marketing. It used to encourage people to write posts, then it changed to encourage more professional writing. Look right before every profile on page one. It says: “Write an article on LinkedIn.” That subtle, powerful encouragement changed the mindset. It said essentially, “We are asking you to think things through and not just post something but write something more substantial.” This is a powerful move that could even get better. Companies who view this as another burden and time waste are missing the value proposition LinkedIn offers.

Pro Tip: Think of LinkedIn as the content marketing power platform and ensure your top talent not only shares but produces original content. It may require help to your top performers in the form of editors or writers, but regardless, it will be worth the time, energy and investment. Your brand will be well positioned by developing thought leaders on the platform who can steer business your way and become an extension of your marketing department. Let them write on personal and professional topics occasionally. Help them create an authentic brand.

Don’t miss an opportunity to build viral and overt branding power into this platform. Stop viewing it as an annoyance. Allow your people the freedom to thrive. They may become your credibility marketing team and assist in promoting and protecting your brand during threatening times.Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?

John M. O'Connor
John M. O’Connor Forbes Councils Member

John M. O’Connor is a multi-year career coach, outplacement and career services leader based in North Carolina.